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John (Jack) Jenkins (1870–1933)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

John (Jack) Jenkins (1870-1933) miner, trade union official

Birth: 1870 at Newcastle, New South Wales, son of John Jenkins (1830-1905), a miner, born at Trevethin, Monmouthshire, Wales, and Sydney-born Mary Ann, née Eckersley (1850-1922). Marriage: 1887 at Lambton, Newcastle, to native-born Elizabeth Parfitt (1871-1927). They had one daughter and four sons. Death: 30 January 1933 at Marrickville, Sydney, New South Wales. Religion: Baptist. 

  • Described as “veteran Unionist” and one of the early members of the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU).
  • Miner at Newcastle and at Minmi. Was possibly the John Jenkins who was elected secretary of the Minmi Relief Committee in December 1893 and energetically worked in the interests of distressed families at Minmi. Amram Lewis was committee chairman.
  • As had his brother George, Jack moved to Western Australia around the turn of the century and worked as a gold miner. He is likely to have been the Jack Jenkins who, in 1902-1905, was secretary of the Boorara and Bulong branches of the Amalgamated Workers’ Association and the Kanowna electorate Parliamentary Labor Party. Irritated by criticism, he wrote to the Kalgoorlie Miner in May 1902 claiming to have taken a leading part in matters affecting the welfare of his fellows in WA and in NSW “from whence I came”.
  • An “inveterate prospector . . . in the gold boom days of Western Australia he was more or less personally responsible for the discovery of several ‘shows’” though his rewards for his discoveries were microscopically small.
  • Returned to NSW about 1912, worked in the Mount Boppy gold mine at Canbelego and became secretary of the Western District Mining Employees Association there. Later was Federated Mining Employees Association (FMEA) secretary at Cobar. In 1916 he was elected State president of the FMEA which amalgamated with the AWU in 1917.
  • He then became organiser under George Buckland, of the Mining Section of the AWU before succeeding Buckland as secretary of the Mining Section from about 1925.
  • Had moved to Marrickville, Sydney, but travelled throughout the State and was widely-known among miners and other rural workers as he was “associated with many claims on behalf of members, and handled them with outstanding ability”. Was an alternate delegate to several Australian Labor Party conferences. As a subordinate of Jack Bailey’s he gave evidence at the AWU internal investigation into the ballot box scandal.
  • Following the death of his wife in 1927 he suffered a serious illness and had one eye removed in 1928.
  • In 1932 he obtained leave from his AWU duties to make a visit to WA to develop a gold mine that he had worked twenty years previously. Collapsed on the train during his return journey to Sydney.
  • Cause of death: pulmonary tuberculosis.

H. J. Gibbney and Ann G. Smith (eds), A Biographical Register 1788-1939, vol 1 (Canberra, 1987).

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Jenkins, John (Jack) (1870–1933)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 22 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia


30 January, 1933 (aged ~ 63)
Marrickville, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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